X-Files fans are not all alike, except for one thing: They cannot wait — pant, pant — for The X-Files: I Want to Believe to open Friday. And never mind The Dark Knight, which is still sucking up considerable box-office oxygen. "We don't need to beat Batman, we just need to get and please an audience," says writer/producer Frank Spotnitz. "We want the fans to be happy and feel rewarded. It really feels like this movie was made because of the hard-core fans and to some extent for them."
A unique aspect of The X-Files phenomenon is the mutual admiration between fans and filmmakers.
Few filmmakers have reciprocated loyalty to fans as have Spotnitz and creator/writer/producer/director Chris Carter. "There's this misleading stereotype that huge TV fans are geeks, and it's just not true," Spotnitz says. "They are nice, smart people you'd be happy to meet anywhere."
During the series' run, the two were famous for paying attention to fan opinion.
"We'd go online to see how an episode was playing, and we wouldn't necessarily respond, but it was helpful to see what they were thinking, and they were always smart and appreciative," Spotnitz says.
They even named a character after an X-Phile who died and embedded names of fans in the opening credits.
Spotnitz just started an X-Files social-networking site, network.biglight.com, that has hundreds of members.
"They are so open and fan-friendly, they really reach out to that community," says L.A. fan Caileigh Scott, 24.
They are doing something filmmakers rarely do: They're hosting, with Twentieth Century Fox, a Fan Celebration at the Hollywood premiere today. X-Philes will get special seating in front of the theater to watch the red-carpet arrivals and will participate in a conference with the filmmakers and the stars, who will field fan questions before they face reporters.
"Their voices continue to be heard," Carter says, "but it's not just for the hard-core fan; it was important that we make this movie for a broad-based audience." He believes a new generation of X-Philes is just waiting to be tapped, including people who were only children when the TV show was on.
I Want to Believe is described as having a monster-of-the-week-style plot, making it accessible to people who aren't clued in to the shadowy government/alien conspiracy of the show.
There are signs interest is picking up, even in the shadow of Batman. The movie-ticketing site Fandango.com reports Believe is the most frequently searched movie on the site. Theaters are arranging more midnight showings. Fans are organizing viewing parties, and many say they plan to see the movie multiple times.
But there's some unrest among the two major types of X-Philes: The 'Shippers, who care most about the romantic relationship between Mulder and Scully, and the NoRomos, who care more about the murky mythology of the show.
Holly Simon, 25, a Canadian freelance Web designer, says arguments between 'Shippers and NoRomos run rampant on her fan site, Xfilesnews.com. "I tell people to take a chill pill — they're panicking over nothing," she says. "But some people are expecting the whole 'picket-fence' idea, and unless Mulder and Scully are sitting on a front porch with their little son at the end, they won't be happy."
Ana Virginia Quijada, 26, of Caracas, Venezuela, who runs two X-Files fan sites, is among those who plan to see the film over and over. "Not because it's a complicated movie, but because we're going to be so excited about just the fact we're seeing them on the screen that we will miss important details," she says.
What explains the intense fan loyalty?
Dean Kowalski, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha and author of The Philosophy of the X-Files, says it's because the show was about big ideas. "It's one of the most philosophical TV shows ever, because at its very core is the question: What ought I to believe?"
Adds Quijada: "Mulder's search is the one we're all making, trying to find that 'truth' that will make us whole."